Top 10 Above the Net

Pac-10 play also finally took its toll on Cal, dropping them from the Top 10 for the first time since the season started. Taking advantage of the opportunity and making their Top 10 debut is a MWC club who did not even sit in our "next five" at the start of October. Also, could this finally be the week that #2 Penn State takes a step back, with its two toughest road matches of the Big 10 season?

1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (18-0, 10-0 Big 12)
Previous Ranking:  1

Results From Last Week:  at Texas (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches:  Missouri (W, 3-0); at Kansas State (Sat.)

Summary:  Nebraska survived a thrilling five-game match against host Texas in its only contest of the week to maintain the top spot in the polls.  Thanks to Sarah Pavan's team-high 22 kills, including six kills alone in the 15-13 Game 5 nailbiter.  Jordan Larson had her 10th straight double-double of the season, posting 13 kills and 13 digs to go along with five blocks on the night.  While Pavan and Larson were the main guns for Nebraska, teaming up for 110 attack attempts, both players hit less than .200 in the winning effort.  To compensate for their low hitting percentage, middle blocker Tracy Stalls produced a .417 clip that saw her hammer down 13 kills.  Freshman Kori Cooper was a defensive force in the middle, totaling a match-high eight stuffs, while senior outside hitter Dani Mancuso contributed nine kills and six blocks.  It wasn't a pretty match offensively, but setter Rachel Holloway did a nice job feeding the ball the hot players at the right moments and finished the evening with 55 assists.  This week, Nebraska had an easy time with Missouri Wednesday night to push its Big 12 record to 10-0 and will look for its 11th conference victory against Kansas State on the road on Saturday.

2. Penn State Nittany Lions (21-0, 10-0 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  2

Results From Last Week:  Michigan (W, 3-1); Michigan State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Wisconsin (Fri.); at Minnesota (Sat.)

Summary:  At the rate she is going, Megan Hodge should be a lock for the AVCA National Freshman of the Year award.  On a team full of All-American candidates, the first-year hitter has distinguished herself from the pack with a rare combination of athleticism, power, and volleyball knowledge, and her talents were on full display this past weekend against the Michigan schools.  After averaging 5.57 kills, 3.71 digs, and 1.00 blocks per game, Hodge was honored by the Big 10 as the conference's co-Player of the Week, the second time she has earned such a distinction in her young career.  Opposite Cassy Salyer also had a great weekend after slowly coming back from a mid-season injury, posting 2.85 kills and 1.28 blocks per game.  Roberta Holehouse continued to play well in the back row for the Nittany Lions, digging up 5.42 balls a game.  Penn State faces perhaps its most challenging road trip of the year with visits to Wisconsin and Minnesota this weekend.

3. Stanford Cardinal (17-2, 8-1 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  3

Results From Last Week:  Oregon State (W, 3-0); Oregon (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Arizona State (Fri.); at Arizona (Sat.)

Summary:  The Oregon schools proved to be no challenge for Stanford, as both the Beavers and the Ducks fell to the host team in three straight games.  Against the Beavers, outside hitter Cynthia Barboza had a great all-around game, spearheading much of the offense with 20 kills on a .471 clip to go along with her 14 digs, two blocks, and two aces.  Erin Waller saw extensive time on the left side, making the most out of her start with 11 kills on a hitting percentage of .478; she also added 11 digs in the win.  Middle blocker Franci Girard hit .800 on the evening with a stellar line of eight kills on 10 swings with zero attack errors.  Oregon proved to be much more of a challenge - the Ducks were holding their opponents to a conference-best .123 hitting percentage - but Stanford's defense was the storyline of the night.  While the Cardinal hit just .202, they were able to limit Oregon to a negative clip all night at just -.088 thanks to some timely blocking.  Middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo did an excellent job touching balls and closing the block leading to a match-high nine blocks, followed by Barboza with six and Waller with four.  In total, Stanford had 15 total team blocks.  Akinradewo was also the offensive star of the night, the only player on the squad to achieve double digit kills at 10 while hitting .476.  A road trip to the Grand Canyon State to battle Arizona State and Arizona should give Stanford two more wins under its belt by the time the weekend is over.

4. UCLA Bruins (21-1, 8-1 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  4

Results From Last Week:  at USC (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:
  at Washington State (Thu.); at Washington (Fri.)

Summary:  Nana Meriwether is making a name for herself in the Pac-10 as a senior, stepping up her game to new levels.  A great blocker last season, the 6-1 East Coast transplant and former Duke Blue Devil has made herself one of the top offensive weapons for the Bruins this season with a season average of 4.03 kills per game.  Against USC, she also proved that her defense was still on par with the best in the country, stuffing the Trojans 10 times to go with her team-leading 19 kills on a .486 clip.  For her efforts, Meriwether nabbed her second Pac-10 Player of the Week accolade this season, and her third overall.  Outside hitters Ali Daley and Katie Carter kept the defense honest, combining for 29 kills.  Jordan Smith and Colby Lyman were stalwarts in the back court, accounting for 15 and 11 digs, respectively.  Nellie Spicer dished out 56 assists in the victory, and in the three games that the Bruins captured, they hit .336 to hand the Trojans another loss in the Pac-10.  This weekend will be huge for UCLA, as they have to face Washington on the road after a tussle with Washington State on Thursday evening.

5. Washington Huskies (17-3, 7-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  5

Results From Last Week:  at Arizona State (W, 3-0); at Arizona (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:
  USC (Thu.); UCLA (Fri.)

Summary:  Washington seems to be having difficulty maintaining their high-level of play from earlier this season, dropping a game to lowly Arizona (only 1-8 in conference), but with Christal Morrison to lean on, head coach Jim McLachlin knows that his group of soldiers is in good hands.  The junior outside hitter did it all for the Huskies, averaging 6.00 kills and 4.14 digs per game, with an 18-kill, 13-dig performance against the Sun Devils and a 24-kill, 16-dig outing against the Wildcats.  Jill Collymore, whose older sister was an All-American at Florida, also had a productive weekend on the left side, hammering down 4.57 kills per game to add offensive support to Morrison.  Courtney Thompson, the diminutive playmaker out of Kent, Wash. and the conference leader in assists per game, posted 16.57 assists per game in the winning effort this past weekend.  Washington has a heavy load ahead of them, with home games against UCLA and USC on tap on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

6. USC Trojans (18-2, 7-2 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  5

Results From Last Week:  UCLA (L, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  at Washington (Thu.); at Washington State (Fri.)

Summary:  Despite four players producing double-digit kill performances against cross-town rival UCLA, USC finished its last match in the Lyon Center with a four-game loss.  The loss drops the Trojans into a tie for third place in the conference with Washington, trailing both Stanford and UCLA by a game.  Asia Kaczor led the way for the slightly-struggling Southern California, pounding down 23 kills at a .326 hitting percentage, while also digging up eight balls in the losing effort.  Outside hitters Diane Copenhagen and Jessica Gysin added 11 and 10 kills respectively, but both hit less than .200, while Bethany Johansen had 10 kills as well.  Kelli Tennant was the most successful USC player on the court in terms of hitting percentage, going eight-of-10 with two attack errors for a .600 clip.  She also led the way on defense with a team-leading seven blocks.  Debora Seilhamer has solidified her position as one of the premier liberos in the country with her 26-dig performance, pushing her season average to 6.03 digs per game.  USC looks to stay in the hunt for the Pac-10 championship with a visit to the Evergreen State this weekend, starting off with Washington on Thursday night, followed by Washington State the following evening.

7. Florida Gators (19-2, 12-1 SEC)
Previous Ranking:  7

Results From Last Week:  South Carolina (W, 3-0); Georgia (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Auburn (W, 3-1); at Alabama (Sun.)

Summary:  Angie McGinnis was the top setter in her class coming out of high school, setting for various Junior U.S. National Teams and the top playmaker in PrepVolleyball.com's Senior Aces, and has steadily become one of the top players in her position as the years have passed by.  This past week, the junior from Frazier, Mich. earned the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after earning her third career triple-double in a sweep over Georgia with a stat line of 41 assists, 14 digs, and 10 kills.  For the week, she averaged 13.67 assists and 2.67 kills per game while hitting at a .321 clip.  Opposite Amber McCray led the Gator offense with 12 kills in a sweep against South Carolina, avenging a defeat from earlier in the season, while Elyse Cusack was once again rock solid as the libero, racking up 18 digs in the process.  In a sweep over the Bulldogs, it was outside hitter Marcie Hampton that paced the squad with 15 kills on a .394 hitting percentage; she also chipped in with 12 digs.  Kisya Killingsworth was second in line with 14 kills and four digs.  After surviving an away game at Auburn already this week, Florida travels to Alabama on Sunday.

8. Texas Longhorns (14-5, 9-3 Big 12)
Previous Ranking:  8

Results From Last Week:  Nebraska (L, 3-2); Oklahoma (W, 3-2)
This Week's Matches:  at Texas Tech (W, 3-1); at Colorado (Sat.)

Summary:  Destinee Hooker provided the offense, but it still wasn't enough to propel Texas past reigning Big 12 Champ Nebraska in a five-game thriller last week.  A match-high 24 kills at an incredible .538 rate, coupled with a 26-kill, five-block performance against Oklahoma, however, was enough to make Hooker the Big 12 Player of the Week.  It was the first honor for her volleyball career, but third conference award overall, having earned one each during the indoor and outdoor track season.  Aside from Hooker, Dariam Acevedo, Ashley Engle, and Jenn Todd all pitched in with 14 kills apiece in the loss to the Cornhuskers, while Engle also contributed 22 kills in the Sooner triumph.  Outside hitter Jen Christian chipped in a season-high 10 kills in the victory.  Setter Michelle Moriarty did a good job of distributing the ball, dishing out 13.1 assists per game while playing solid defense, posting 2.5 digs per game.  Defense helped Texas overcome a loud Oklahoma home crowd, as Leticia Armstrong had a hand in over half of the team's 17 blocks, finishing the night with nine blocks.  After taking out Texas Tech in four games Wednesday night, Texas then takes on Colorado on Saturday.

9. Utah Utes (19-2, 10-0 MWC)
Previous Ranking:  10

Results From Last Week:  San Diego State (W, 3-0); UNLV (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  BYU (Fri.)

Summary:  Outside hitter Whitney Webb had another outstanding weekend against conference foes and was rewarded accordingly, picking up her second consecutive Mountain West Conference Player of the Week award.  Against San Diego State and UNLV, she averaged 3.83 kills, 3.67 digs, and 1.33 blocks per game while hitting for an outstanding .541 clip.  Outside hitter Airial Salvo also had productive outings against the Aztecs and Rebels, averaging 5.33 kills and 1.00 blocks per game, while middle blocker Emillie Toone was a defensive force in the middle, using every inch of her 6-7 frame to put up 2.00 blocks per game in the sweeps.  The two-setter system that head coach Beth Launiere has in place utilizes the talents of sophomore Shannon Krug and freshman Sydney Anderson, the latter a Top 10 Prepvolleyball.com Senior Ace.  Together, the duo have set the Utes to a respectable .283 hitting percentage and to the top of the MWC Conference, with hopes of unseating reigning champion Brigham Young.  Friday marks the second showdown between Utah and BYU, and with a victory, Utah can claim sole possession of first place in the conference.

10. Wisconsin Badgers (15-5, 7-3 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  11

Results From Last Week:  at Minnesota (L, 3-0); at Iowa (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  Penn State (Fri.); Ohio State (Sun.)

Summary:  Despite a road loss to a red-hot Minnesota, Wisconsin is still one of the top teams in the Big 10 and will have the second round of conference play to play catch-up to the second-place Golden Gophers.  The given, of course, is that first-place is all but sewed up for Penn State.  Even with the return of senior Maria Carlini to the starting line-up, the Badgers could not overcome a poor hitting performance in Minneapolis, going for a .113 clip on three games.  Freshman Brittany Dolgnar and Carlini both had a team-high 13 kills to lead the offense, while Jocelyn Wack had a team-high 16 digs to spearhead the defensive effort.  Against Iowa, Dolgnar made it known that Megan Hodge isn't the only freshman making waves in the conference, producing 25 kills, 14 digs, and five blocks in the four-game victory.  Audra Jeffers and Carlini combined for 19 kills to help out on the offensive end, while Wack was again dominant in the back row, digging up 25 attacks.  Wisconsin will have another chance to redeem themselves against Penn State this Friday, while Ohio State awaits on Sunday.

11. California Golden Bears (15-5, 4-5 Pac-10)
Previous Ranking:  9

Results From Last Week:  Oregon (L, 3-1); Oregon State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  at Arizona (Fri.); at Arizona State (Sat.)

12. Purdue Boilermakers (17-4, 7-3 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  12

Results From Last Week:  Illinois (W, 3-0); Northwestern (W, 3-1)
This Week's Matches:  Indiana (W, 3-0); Iowa (Fri.)

13. San Diego Toreros (17-4, 7-0 WCC)
Previous Ranking:  14

Results From Last Week:  San Diego (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  St. Mary's (Thu.); San Francisco (Sat.)

14. BYU Cougars (19-2, 8-1 MWC)
Previous Ranking:  13

Results From Last Week:  UNLV (W, 3-0); San Diego State (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Weber State (W, 3-0); at Utah (Fri.)

15. Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-5, 9-1 Big 10)
Previous Ranking:  NR

Results From Last Week:  Wisconsin (W, 3-0); at Iowa (W, 3-0)
This Week's Matches:  Ohio State (Fri.); Penn State (Sat.)

Dropped Out:  Santa Clara (15)


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